Building on the Dream Act approved by voters in 2012, Democrat Anthony G. Brown proposed Thursday that Maryland provide low-interest college loans to the children of workers who are in this country illegally.
Brown's proposal came on a busy day in the campaign for governor. One of his Democratic rivals, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, unveiled an economic program. The other, Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, pushed for relief from home foreclosures.
On the Republican side, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan told a summit of business leaders in Annapolis that he would improve Maryland's competitiveness by cutting taxes and regulation. And Harford County Executive David R. Craig became the first candidate of either party to fire a volley in the expected broadcast war, announcing that he will begin running radio ads on two Baltimore stations Friday on his plan to phase out the state income tax.
Brown's Dream Fund plan is an extension of the Dream Act, an initiative pushed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and petitioned to referendum, at which it was upheld the next year. It allows students who entered the country illegally to qualify for in-state tuition. Brown's plan, unveiled at a Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring, would help the same students finance higher education.
Brown noted that in most cases such students don't qualify for federal college loans. He said he is not aware of any comparable programs in the country.
"We believe the Dream Fund is going to go a long way toward opening the door to our public colleges and universities," he said. "Students who have access to student loans are more likely to attend school and stay in school."
Under Brown's plan, the same students who are eligible for in-state tuition under the Dream Act will be able to receive loans. Under the act, students must have graduated from a Maryland high school, be enrolled in a community college for their first two years of higher education and repay their loans after graduation. In addition, their families must have filed income tax returns for the preceding three years.
Brown's plan reaches out to the state's growing Hispanic community, a factor in the state's Democratic primary electorate. Hispanic Democrats who attended the announcement said Brown's plan would resonate in their community.
"This will motivate voters, I can assure you of that," said Natali Fani-Gonzalez, a candidate for the House of Delegates in Montgomery County.
The campaign estimated the first-year cost of the program at $800,000, rising to $4.3 million by 2018. According to the campaign, the program would eventually take in more revenue than it paid out as graduates repaid loans.
Earlier in the day in Baltimore, Gansler outlined an economic plan that focuses on bringing back manufacturing jobs, establishing a portal were academics and business workers can exchange ideas and offering incentives for small business owners to create jobs.
"It's a plan built around one core truth: Maryland needs more jobs, entry-level jobs, mid-level jobs, high-tech jobs, construction jobs, engineering jobs — you name it, Maryland needs it," he said.
Gansler's announcement was held on the waterfront in Fort Armistead Park with the shuttered Bethlehem Steel Plant in the background. Gansler used the opportunity to take a dig at Brown, reminding those gathered that the plant closed about two years ago under the current administration.
The attorney general said the state needs to help employees save for their education through tax-free saving accounts that would allow employers to voluntarily match their contributions. He also wants out-of-work individuals to receive unemployment benefits for on-the-job training with potential employers.
A third part of Gansler's 30-point plan involves "re-manufacturing," restoring old, non-functional products for new uses. He said the industry could focus on reuse and shipment of hospital equipment and medical devices, electronic equipment and automotive parts to other states or countries that have a use for the materials.
Gansler said his plan would cost approximately $68 million that he proposes to pay for by eliminating some corporate tax breaks.
Later, in Annapolis, Gansler joined environmentalists before the House Economic Matters Committee to urge increasing the state's consumption of clean energy. He testified in favor of a bill that would boost the target for wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy to 40 percent by 2025. The current goal is 20 percent by 2022.
Mizeur and her running mate, the Rev. Delman Coates, appeared before the House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis to press for legislative protection from foreclosures for working families. A bill she is sponsoring would prohibit mortgage companies from seeking further judgments against a borrower after conducting a short sale of the home to recover as much of the mortgage as the property is worth.
Mizeur and Coates have made stemming foreclosures a key plank in their campaign platform. Maryland's foreclosures jumped 275 percent last year, giving the state the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
Hogan hosted a gathering at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis that he called the Business Summit on Improving Maryland's Economic Competitiveness. He told the group he would improve Maryland's image as a business-friendly state by cutting corporate taxes and changing what he called the state's "onerous" regulatory climate.
Baltimore Sun reporter Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun